28 Jul 2016
WYD blog – Pope's welcome
WYD Krakow – Day 3
We started the day with another amazing catechesis session, this time with Cardinal Mafi from Tonga, who spoke with humour and warmth about growing up and being ‘sacked’ from school for brewing his own beer. He also spoke of his relationship with his mother who, when learning of his mischievous behaviour, touched him tenderly instead of beating him. “This is mercy,” he said.
We learnt a new dance during catechesis and celebrated Mass – once again I was reminded of how important music is to young people (and oldies like me) and how it opens our souls and lifts our spirits.
I left the group to make my way to the media centre and on the way I met a photographer from the national Catholic paper in Scotland and he gave me some tips about how to get to the Pope’s welcome event (apparently you need a pool card as well as media accreditation). I was also pleased to see my Italian friend from the first day who found a cable for my camera after I lost mine.
Despite all the good advice, I nearly missed out on getting to the media section at the Pope’s welcome because of confusion over departure times but I eventually found myself catching up with a large press contingent on their way to the venue, Blonia Park, which is a 10-minute walk from the press centre.
It took us a long time to get through security – I’ve never seen anything like it! The camera crews and photographers had every single bit of equipment taken apart and checked, as well as having it put through an x-ray machine, and even my humble camera had to be turned on and off, as did my computer, and they asked me to drink from my water bottle before a woman gave me a thorough body search.
The police and army presence was unbelievable – at one stage there were about 50 police vans driving down the street leading to Blonia Park and I hate to think how many officers and army personnel are on duty. It makes you feel both safe and scared at the same time.
Despite the hold-up at security, I made it up to the press stand – high above the crowd and only 50 metres or so from the main stage. I had to pinch myself when I got up there and looked around at all the crowd which stretched further than the eye could see.
The arrival of Pope Francis saw pilgrims running from the grass to the 'aisles' to catch a glimpse of him and the noise level and flag waving increased dramatically. The press area also got a little more intense as photographers and cameramen jockeyed for position. The pope’s speech didn’t disappoint with it’s focus on mercy and his warning – received with laughter – that some young people seem to have opted for “early retirement”.
Each region brought onto the stage a flag with an image of a saint – for Oceania it was St Mary MacKillop, much to the delight of the Aussie pilgrims – and there was traditional Polish dancing and beautiful singing by the choir which filled a whole stage.
I have never been to an event of this magnitude – the AFL Grand Final pales into insignificance in terms of numbers, colour and logistics. And it’s only the first of the main WYD events!